How to Make Hummingbird Food

How to Make Hummingbird Food

If you are anything like us, you simply love having hummingbirds coming around your yard. Almost an enigma, these beautiful birds cause us to sit and stare for hours. The only downside to having hummingbirds around is that they can really go through the nectar in their feeders.

If you have a slew of hummingbirds coming around, you will most likely be refilling your feeder a few times a day. Obviously, using store-bought nectar can get quite costly. We decided to start looking for cheaper options, and that is when we learned about making our own hummingbird nectar.

We were thrilled as this meant these amazing birds would keep coming around, and we wouldn’t break the bank. Read on to learn more about the simplicity and cost effectiveness of making your own hummingbird nectar.

What you Should Know Prior to Hanging Hummingbird Feeders

If you have never had hummingbird feeders in your yard, there are a few important things you should note. Hummingbirds feed not only on nectar from flowers and feeders, but also on tiny insects. Using pesticides to minimize insects in the area around your feeder could make the hummingbirds avoid your feeder altogether.

Pesticides can also end up on flowers or feeders and sicken or kill the birds. It is a good idea to restrict any pesticide use where you plan to put a hummingbird feeder.

On the other hand, hummingbird feeders, with their sweet nectar, can attract wasps, bees and ants to the area.

If you begin to see these larger insects near your feeders, you could invest in  Terro 4-in-1 Wasp Traps to minimize their presence. Ants can be better controlled with these Spectracide Outdoor Ant Traps placed near the base of the feeder.

Benefits of Making Your own Hummingbird Nectar

Though making your own hummingbird nectar may seem like an unnecessary chore atop your already busy day, it is truly a simple process that proves to be much healthier for the birds. A few key benefits to making your own nectar include the following.

Fewer Chemicals in Your Backyard

Our favorite thing about making our own nectar is the lack of chemicals just hanging around our backyard. Unlike store-bought nectar that can contain dyes, preservatives and artificial sweeteners, homemade nectar simply contains sugar and water.

Red #40 dye is often used to color premade hummingbird nectar. According to ”DIET AND NUTRITION: The Artificial Food Dye Blues” published on the National Institutes of Health website, food dyes, derived from petroleum, “are likely carcinogenic…” We have personally begun to eliminate food coloring in our family diet, so why feed it to the birds we so enjoy?

Saving Money

As noted, hummingbirds can drain their feeders quickly. We used to purchase Pennington Electronectar for around $20 per gallon. Depending on how many feeders you are filling and how often, purchasing nectar can quickly get expensive.

On the other side of the coin, you can purchase a generic four-pound bag of sugar for around $3. This will yield enough sugar to make two gallons of nectar with about two cups of sugar leftover. You should be able to immediately deduce that homemade nectar will save you loads of cash in the end.

How to Make Your own Hummingbird Nectar

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

  • 4 cups of warm water
  • 1 cup of sugar
    Pour warm water into a bowl or pot. Stir in sugar until it is completely dissolved. If you want to warm the solution on the stove to facilitate dissolving, you can. Boiling isn’t necessary, but will not affect the nectar. Do not use honey, agave or corn syrup as a sugar alternative since these can be harmful to hummingbirds.*Yields one quart of nectar.

    How Much Nectar Should You Make?

    The amount of nectar you make depends on how many feeders you plan to fill. You can adjust the recipe to meet your demands. Obviously, the more feeders you hang, the more hummingbirds will come around.

    Making Your Nectar

    As you can see, you only need sugar and water to make hummingbird nectar. You can use almost any brand of pure cane sugar whether it is organic or not. Regular white sugar will dissolve into your solution the fastest since the granules are so fine.

    Additionally, you can use either bottled or tap water for the nectar. The ratio for water to sugar is 4:1, or four cups of water to one cup of sugar. If you choose to make a gallon of nectar, you will need 16 cups of water and four cups of sugar. This ratio is the best for recreating the natural levels of sucralose found in flower nectar.

    Once you’ve measured out your sugar and water, simply warm the water until the sugar is completely dissolved, stirring regularly. Boiling is not necessary, but you can do it if you prefer. Always wait until the mixture has cooled before filling the feeders.

    Changing the Nectar’s Concentration

    You may find the hummingbirds are not visiting your feeder as often as they used to. Or, if you want to assist the birds with extra energy during their migration season, you can increase the amount of sugar in your mixture. Only increase sugar concentration in small increments as too much can actually deter the birds.

    Storing Your Hummingbird Nectar

    Should you end up with more nectar than your feeders can immediately hold, you can store it in the refrigerator. This will give it the longest shelf-life of approximately 14 days. Pro tip: Keep your hummingbird feeders full. You do not want to be witness to angry hummingbirds.

    Cleaning Your Hummingbird Feeders

    It is a good idea to clean your hummingbird feeders every time you refill them or every few days with warm, soapy water. The sugar-water attracts insects like ants who ultimately meet their demise in the nectar. Their dead ant bodies can clog the feeding tubes, so your birds won’t have access to the nectar. Plus, dead bugs in your food is just gross.

    Additionally, the sugar can build up on the sides of your feeders which also make the tubes prone to clogging. It is a good idea to make sure your feeders are free of cracks or holes while cleaning them. There is no sense in pouring your handmade nectar out for the insects.

    Setting Up Camp

    Setting up your campsite is the perfect time to involve everyone. You can even do it a few days prior to the great camp out if it fits better into your schedule. Let the older kids take a shot at pitching the tent, while younger kids can gather twigs and leaves for kindling.

    It is a good idea to check with city or HOA ordinances prior to starting a campfire in your backyard. Some may not allow it, while others may only allow the use of small fire pits. A firepit would be efficient for roasting small items and simply enjoying the firelight, but you might need a camp stove for cooking larger items.

    Enjoying Your Hummingbirds

    Getting your hummingbird feeders out in early spring prior to the flowers blooming will ensure you will be visited regularly through the sesason by hummingbirds. By making your own nectar, you will be able to keep up with their ravenous ways without going broke. Once hummingbirds have found a reliable food source, they will keep returning providing hours of entertainment for you and your family.